THERE is no acceptable excuse for the failure to respond instantly to the tragic plight of the Russian submariners. History is littered with examples of betrayal and incompetence in the deployment of military personnel, and human lives are of considerably less value than political or economic prestige, it seems.

Regrettably, we still need defence forces because of the existence of unstable regimes throughout the world, but personnel should not be exposed to risks that can be minimised by the unfettered application of science and technology.

The Russian leaders are being castigated now, and rightly so; but the rest of the technological world should remember its own failures in such matters. Politics and money should not be the obstacles to safety. - Maurice Jordan, Newton Aycliffe.


WE are now nearing the end of the long summer holidays when we are afflicted with youngsters leaping in and out of our gardens.

Yet every day I pass schools with empty yards and fields where they could practise their ball games. Windows could be protected by shutters on a temporary basis. Everywhere we see notices: No Ball Games.

How can we produce sportsmen and women of the future when they have nowhere to play? - Mary Ellery, Peterlee.


BESSIE Robinson provided a very fine tribute to mark the passing of war hero George Bowman (Echo, Aug 4). History and geography dictate, however, that George fought first in the D-Day landings, then in Caen and lastly Nijmagen. Bessie had the battles in reverse order by mistake.

It is right that we should never forget the debt we owe to the likes of George Bowman, who faced the horrors of war against fascism with such heroism. Thanks very much, Bessie, for the reminder. - Stuart Hill, Darlington.


FORMER miners and their families are still waiting for compensation for lung diseases. Ex-prisoners of the Japanese, too, have waited a long time for compensation. Yet £3,900 has been given to criminals, and murderers, released in Northern Ireland; a typist can receive £100,000 damages because someone in the office patted her bottom. And if you are a failure in charge of an airline or the Millennium Dome, you will be rewarded handsomely when they sack you.

Sad, when you remember the fight that Labour politicians of the past put up to get better conditions and compensation for miners who were disabled by lung diseases. A pity the Labour Party died with John Smith. - Jim Ross, Rowlands Gill, Tyne and Wear.


IT is possible to have your gas supplier changed without doing anything.

The first I knew that mine had changed was when I received my bill at the end of February 2000. It read that this was my final account. I had never signed any forms or telephoned anyone. Then the letters started to come from a different supplier.

I sent letters to two gas consumer councils and they found out where the mistake was made and said I would be transferred back to my old supplier. The trouble is I am still receiving letters and bills from the other supplier. - WH Cameron, Brandon.


ONCE again Peter Mullen displays his intense dislike of all things Blairite/New Labour (Echo, Aug 15). He vented his spleen and ended by using a quote from George Orwell (another Blair): "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." Another case for Pot, Kettle and Black? - John L Wicks, Darlington.


YOU reported (Echo, Aug 5) that the Association of Chief Police Officers had stated that it regarded as 'normal' the suspension of a chief constable against whom a complaint had been made.

The Association does not, in fact, take that view. We would not wish to generalise about the likely outcome of such circumstances, nor to comment on any individual case. These matters are ones for the consideration of the local Police Authority in the first instance. ACPO has no part in the process at any stage. - Peter Shipley, Head of Information, Association of Chief of Police Officers in England Wales and Northern Ireland.


MAY I point out that GNER has included its Harrogate-London service in its plans for a new franchise, contrary to the suggestion in your recent story (Echo, Aug 17). We also liaise closely with Northern Spirit to make connections at Leeds and York as easy as possible. - Alan Hyde Corporate Affairs Manager, Great North Eastern Railway, York.


AT last the truth is out. A recent report (Echo, Aug 18) suggests that young women are ignoring the advice of contraceptive agencies and becoming pregnant.

This must raise a number of questions that require answering. The first should be: Why are massive funds and resources being expended on this section of the population without a worthwhile return? Am I the only one of millions of taxpayers who is becoming tired of old rhetoric which suggests that these young women are victims. I suggest that the real victims are the agencies going short of funding because too much money is presently being wasted on what is an avoidable situation.

Another question to be asked is: Where are all the fathers of these children? The old adage "it takes two to tango" must still hold good in these situations, so why are the fathers not being brought to task? Is it perhaps that they themselves are too young to make a financial contributions to the outcome of their selfish behaviour and it is left once again to those like me, who have little or no say in the matter, to foot the bill?

Perhaps this new evidence will be used to form a new and fairer approach to the spending of public funds and a more stringent approach taken to curb this disgusting lack of responsibility. - David T Colling, Bishop Auckland.